James Bond’s impact on drinking culture cannot be overstated, from his Martinis (shaken, not stirred) to the Vesper. But the Americano is Bond’s first drink order in “Casino Royale,” the 1953 book by Ian Fleming that kicked off the series, and the cocktail again makes an appearance in later novels. The man was onto something, but the cocktail predates Bond by nearly a century.
The Americano was first served in the 1860s at Gaspare Campari’s bar in Milan, Italy. The drink, which features Campari and sweet vermouth in equal parts topped with sparkling water, is an effortless take on the Milano-Torino, which contained Campari and sweet vermouth, sans water. It’s believed that the name stems from its popularity among American tourists. And it’s possible that the name wasn’t affixed until the Prohibition era, when Americans absconded to Europe in droves, thirsty for good drinks.
The Americano is also thought to be the precursor to the Negroni. As the story goes, the Negroni was invented in Florence by the Italian Count Camillo Negroni in the early 20th century, when he asked a barkeep to tweak his Americano by replacing the soda water with gin.
Since the cocktail has only three ingredients, it’s important that each component be of the highest quality. Campari takes care of itself. The Italian aperitif is made from a proprietary infusion of herbs and fruit in alcohol, and it gives everything it touches a red-tinged punch of bitterness. You can choose your favorite sweet vermouth, but it’s imperative that the vermouth is fresh: It should be stored in the fridge, and it will begin to change flavor within a month of opening the bottle. All that’s left now is the water. A good soda water or sparkling mineral water with plenty of bite will cut through the bitter Campari and rich vermouth, rendering the drink refreshing and thirst-quenching.
With its low-alcohol nature and easy-drinking sensibilities, the Americano is a prime candidate for daytime and preprandial activities. It’s light—but flavorful—and with its bittersweet, bubbly taste, it’s easy to see why counts and spies alike were fans of the classic drink.
Click Play to See This Americano Cocktail Recipe Come Together
1 1/2 ounces Campari
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Soda water, chilled, to top
Garnish: orange twist
Fill a highball glass with ice, then add the Campari and sweet vermouth.
Top with the soda water and stir gently to combine.
Garnish with an orange twist.